The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) expects to be joined by other trade associations and stakeholders in updating FERC next month on collaborative efforts aimed at developing a consensus on both the technical aspects of gas quality and interchangeability, as well as possible policy solutions, Donald Santa, president of INGAA, said last Wednesday.

“It has been a very long, labor-intensive process,” Santa said in an appearance before an Energy Bar Association (EBA) meeting in Washington, DC. “The number of hours devoted to comprehending the technical issues is really astounding.” The effort is taking place under the umbrella of the Natural Gas Council.

“We intend to report to the Commission in mid-December both with respect to our progress on the technical issues and also the success of our attempts to forge a policy consensus,” Santa went on to say. “It would not surprise me if there is additional technical work to be done on the gas interchangeability issue, which has proven to be the more daunting of these two issues.”

At the same time, Santa said he did not want to be “pollyanish in telling you that this collaborative [effort] is going to solve all of the problems and that come December, all of the stakeholders are going to be linked arm-in-arm on every issue. There may well be some issues — I think particularly with the kind of ‘who pays’ aspect of it — where the Commission still is going to need to make a final call.”

Meanwhile, Santa argued that leadership on public policies that are going to contribute to greater access to gas supply “really need to come from the executive and legislative branches of the federal government.”

At the state and local levels, this leadership could be developed “in terms of recognizing the broader economic and public welfare implications of decisions made that now tend to focus almost exclusively on local impacts of energy infrastructure and resource development,” Santa said.

Addressing pipeline infrastructure issues, the former FERC commissioner lauded the Commission’s Office of Energy Projects for doing a “good job” in this area.

“I would suggest that the problem has more to do with the additional permitting that’s required once FERC issues a certificate and the ability of other federal, state and local resource agencies to delay and, in some cases, effectively thwart pipeline construction,” Santa added. “We appreciate the Commission’s efforts to work with the pipeline industry in navigating through these barriers.”

However, as with the supply issue, efforts to truly solve obstacles facing pipeline infrastructure efforts lies with other parts of the federal government beyond FERC. “What can the executive branch do to promote greater coordination among the various federal agencies that affect pipeline siting and construction? What can the Congress do to achieve greater coordination among the various federal statutes that affect pipeline permitting and the agencies charged with administering those statutes?”

Meanwhile, Cynthia Marlette, general counsel at FERC, noted that liquefied natural gas (LNG) “continues to be a very high priority for the Commission — the development of LNG, the facilities and the expeditious processing of applications.”

She said that there is a “very high emphasis” on LNG project safety at FERC. “The Commission is conducting thorough reviews of potential impacts on the public safety.”

As for gas prices, Marlette noted that FERC “always pays close attention to price spikes — whether it’s gas or electric.” She said that FERC staff continues to coordinate “very closely” with the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and other agencies in terms of looking at gas prices.

“We’re going to be looking at, generally, with the industry of course, what are the impacts of high gas prices on LDCs, electric generators, on long-term resource decisions,” Marlette noted.

Marlette and Santa were joined by several other power and gas industry officials at the EBA conference in participating on a panel examining hot topics at FERC.

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